‘True Blood’ smart vampire series

John Sturgeon

Alan Ball has a habit of turning anything he touches to gold. With “American Beauty,” he wrote an Academy Award-winning screenplay for a film that ended up winning Best Picture.

He followed his win by creating “Six Feet Under,” one of the greatest shows in the history of TV.

Ball’s latest project, “True Blood,” departs from realistic family dramas to a fantasy world where vampires live among human beings due to development of a bottled synthetic blood product that provides vampires the sustenance they need.

There are vampire rights groups that feud with the government for more rights, even though some people in power cannot shake the fear that the living dead will start killing humans again.

The show is set in the town of Bon Temps, a small Louisiana town that has not had a vampire in years.

Telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a woman who has had trouble with men and past employers due to the fact that she can hear people’s thoughts when she is in their presence, works in the town bar.

One evening, a mysterious man named Bill (Stephen Moyer) enters the bar and sits alone. Sookie is taken aback by how attractive she finds him and heads over to serve him.

Upon meeting Bill, Sookie realizes she cannot hear his thoughts and figures out that Bill is a 173-year-old vampire who has set up shop in the mansion that used to belong to his family.

Later in the pilot, Bill is taken down by two blood drainers out to make a profit on the powerful vampire blood.

When Sookie arrives on the scene and saves Bill, a bond is formed, and the two begin the process of trying to understand why they are drawn together.

Sookie also has a brother named Jason, who is a town womanizer always on the hunt for his next conquest.

Two of the girls he sleeps with early in the show have vampire marks on their necks, signifying that at one point they had been with a vampire.

Both women are killed off in a matter of weeks, and the cops are still looking for the murderer, with Jason being the prime suspect.

It seems the show has set up some type of vampire hierarchy with a distinct leader, and it will be interesting to see what happens with that and the effect it has on Bill’s relationship with a human.

Sookie is out to clear her brother’s name and figure out the vampires’ agenda.

The show has been a huge hit for HBO so far, with the network renewing it for a second season following the second episode.

What has worked so far is the way Ball effortlessly blends eerie, intense drama with gut-busting laughs on a continuous basis.

Paquin’s perkiness and sexy charm make her fun to watch, while Moyer plays the mild-mannered badass with great believability.

Ryan Kwantan’s sex-addicted Jason is a standout who adds so much to the show with his comedic touch.

From pointing at himself in the mirror during a romantic encounter to dancing in his underwear in front of a webcam to get drugs without purchasing them, you never know what new lows this man will reach.

With great characters and an award-winning visionary at the helm, “True Blood” is a show well worth going out of your way to see.

The show continues its initial run on HBO every Sunday at 9 p.m.